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What NBA history can teach the Wizards about Bradley Beal’s No Trade Clause

Beal is the 10th player in NBA history with a No Trade Clause in his contract. New President Michael Winger can take some lessons from the other nine.

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New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The new President of Monumental Basketball, Michael Winger, reportedly takes over the Washington Wizards with full authority to remake the roster. According to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins, Ted Leonsis “would not be against a rebuild if that’s the route Winger wants to take.” The messaging behind hiring Winger should bring hope of a new direction to the Washington faithful. This franchise has desperately needed someone from the outside to take the reins and figure out how to get out of the NBA’s middle.

Just because Winger can rebuild doesn’t necessarily mean that he will. The team will reportedly look to be aggressive in free agency, which likely signals that a rebuild won’t start now. More importantly, Winger’s “full authority” may not extend to starting a rebuild right now due to Bradley Beal’s No Trade Clause (NTC). In effect, the Wizards handed over some control over their franchise to Beal when they agreed to the NTC along with his 5-year, $251 million contract last season. The franchise cannot move on from its current era without Beal’s agreement and need to tread carefully to ensure they receive good value for the 3-time All-Star. Let’s look at how other teams have handled NTCs throughout NBA history and what the Wizards can learn from those situations.

No Trade Clauses in NBA history

A NTC is one of the rarest occurrences in the NBA. Beal is just the 10th player in league history to receive one. The list of players who got an NTC is impressive to say the least: LeBron James (2016-Cleveland), Kevin Garnett (2012-Boston), Carmelo Anthony (2014-New York), Dirk Nowitzki (2014-Dallas), Kobe Bryant (2004-Los Angeles), Dwyane Wade (2014-Miami), Tim Duncan (2012-San Antonio), David Robinson (1997-San Antonio) and John Stockton (1999-Utah).

Six of those nine Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers finished their career with the team they signed the NTC with (albeit Wade took the long way around and Lebron could do the same). A couple of those stars demanded a trade or reportedly considered a demand. Only Anthony and Garnett actually waived their NTCs to be moved.

Bryant famously demanded a trade in 2007, but a deal never materialized due in part to Kobe’s NTC. The Lakers reportedly agreed to trade the legend to Detroit for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson and a first-round pick. Chicago, Dallas, and other teams also negotiated potential trades for Kobe before he decided to remain in LA. Those deals were also greatly hampered by Kobe’s NTC. For example, Mark Cuban claimed that he rebuffed a potential Dirk-for-Kobe swap but the deal likely would have been nixed by Kobe because he would likely only play in Dallas with Dirk. The Lakers simply could not receive enough value due to Kobe’s NTC and, with the relationship still intact, convinced him to stay.

Garnett’s NTC waiver is a bit more straightforward. The Celtics swindled the Nets into the infamous package of draft picks for Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and the 37-year-old Garnett. KG reportedly didn’t want to leave the Celtics despite an impending rebuild, but Pierce convinced him to waive his NTC to compete for a title in Brooklyn. Boston essentially pushed KG out with the threat of a rebuild, but the transaction only went down to the desperation of the Nets. It may have been difficult for Boston to find another deal that would bring back enough value to justify moving their aging star.

Carmelo’s situation may be the most analogous to Beal’s. In 2017, the Knicks wanted to hit the reset button and move Anthony. But the 32-year-old Melo handcuffed the Knicks by demanding a trade to only Houston in July. New York was stuck until September when Melo relented and included two more teams to his list of acceptable destinations. Eventually, the Knicks only received a massively overpaid Enes Kanter, a back-of-the-rotation player in Doug McDermott, and a 2018 2nd-round pick (that turned into Mitchell Robinson) from the OKC Thunder. The paltry return was due not only to Melo’s NTC but also to the fact that the Knicks waited too long to seek a deal. If the Knicks approached the issue in a timely matter, they may have been able to trade Melo during the draft when teams would have had more flexibility to bring him in. New York failed to get a read on where Anthony was and it cost them greatly in the long run.

How the Wizards should handle Beal

First and foremost, Winger and the Wizards need to maintain a good and healthy relationship with Beal. A misstep or perceived slight towards Beal could truly rob Washington of leverage by pushing Beal to angrily demand a trade to one team. If he’s stubborn enough, the Wizards might be backed into a wall and be forced into an even worse deal than the Melo trade. One would hope that the years of devotion and almost half a billion dollars they’ve committed to him over 15 years would provide some goodwill. But Beal has no incentive to help the Wizards.

The best path may be to try and compete this season. This plan would keep Beal happy for now, give the team a fair opportunity to compete, and allow Winger time to gather intel on his roster in addition to how other teams view Beal. They still need to avoid signing untradeable contracts, but it’s certainly possible to construct a roster to compete for the playoffs this season that can be blown up in a year if need be.

The Wizards also have to make sure they move fast if they decide to move Beal. They should have his list of acceptable destinations ready and put into the world quickly. Allowing the situation to linger might put Washington into a similar situation as LA was in with Kobe where he effectively held the franchise hostage. Beal still holds all the cards in this hypothetical but the Wizards may have enough flexibility to get some value.

Winger (and whoever becomes his GM) are in a precarious position due to Beal’s NTC and his contract in general. They have to walk the tightrope with Beal, make sure they have his trust, and figure out what the future looks like with him. The best hope is that Winger builds a contender around Beal, but that feels too optimistic at this point. Wizards fans may just have to hope that the team doesn’t get backed into a corner by its superstar.